Tag Archive | tulips

Tracking Tulips

IMG_3396It’s been an amazing month. Spring has sprung like a flower from a clown’s buttonhole, boing!! On my days of rest I’m exhausted. But the other days are like a carnival, one ride after another, both sequentially: a carousel of tulips, the apricot tree’s long flowering waterfall: after a short climb to full blossom a burgeoning of bloom then a whoosh to done the past few days, weeds emerging like a lush jungle ride faster and thicker than I ever remember; and in layers: all at the same time, each tree, shrub or part of the garden following its own trajectory, with its own protean pace and colorful convolutions. Like gardening inside a Picasso.

European pasque flower popped up near the front door in a place I suspect I transplanted it to last year, and I inadvertently started tracking it in photos. While it’s one of the earliest blooms, showing up shortly after crocuses, it doesn’t attract many bees. It’s behavior through the years has charmed me. From the same deep rhizome it sends up sequential purple bell-flowers. As each old flower sheds petals and unfurls its silky seedheads, a new bud grows from the root.

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This sequence will continue for weeks, until eventually buds will cease forming and seedheads will grow tall and topple, sowing themselves in a circle around the original rhizome. That plant will expand each year, dropping more and more concentric rings of seeds, growing new little pasque sprouts. An ingenious propagation adaptation, in my estimation.

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Because I know what I’m seeing in this largely unhelpful image, I can count at least 17 young plants at varying distances from the mother plant. Let’s keep an eye on this growing family, in the crabapple bed down north by the pond, as summer progresses.

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Each year this red tulip group morphs and grows. I divided it last year and spread some of its stray bulbs down the bed. For a few weeks in spring, it’s a punctuation mark in my yard that everyone remarks upon. Some years ago I planted a handful of standard red tulip bulbs that I bought on impulse at the Farm and Home store in town. Deer ate them the first few years, but somehow over time I think they hybridized with the hardy little naturalizing tulips (which the deer largely ignore) growing shorter and clumpier.

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And this morning, after the 19 degree night, they woke tattered and frost-covered. I touched them: frozen solid. I really thought that was the end of them…

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…but by this afternoon they had perked up remarkably.

The little wild tulip, Tulipa tarda, originally from central Asia, has been in commercial cultivation since the 16th century. In my yard, it’s grown for around fifteen years, following the red tulips in bloom. They’ll stay closed all day in clouds and rain, but give them a few hours of full sun and they’ll pop open. Below, a cluster the other day at 12:45, and the same shot two hours later. I lay on my belly and watched them for about an hour, counting it as meditation, and actually slowed myself down enough to see micro-incremental movements of petals.

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…the day began in cinders

The day began in cinders. All that was left of the morning's drama a few filthy tail feathers on the ground.

The day began in cinders; all that was left of the morning’s drama a few filthy tail feathers on the ground.

Yesterday’s smoke was so thick from neighbors clearing fields with fire that it kept me inside most of the day, even though it warmed up to 75. This morning it wasn’t so bad, just a singed aroma to the air.  So warm last night, fortunately, that I didn’t light a fire in the woodstove for the first time all year. Fortunately, I say! This morning the cat leapt onto the wall by the stovepipe and the dogs jumped barking out of bed all at once. I didn’t understand why at first, then heard the desperate skritching inside the pipe: a bird had somehow fallen in.

I put the dogs out and left the door open. My woodstove has a peculiar double ceiling, which might have made it easier. I lifted the griddle out of the lid to see a pile of creosote ash on top of the false ceiling. I reached my hand up into the chimney and felt feathers, startling both me and the bird, who flapped and scratched in a panic, billowing clouds of ash out the hole. The second time, knowing better, I covered the hole with a dog towel, reached under and into the pipe swiftly, and grabbed a fistful of feathers and a leg, pulled the bird down and out into the towel, and took it outside, letting it flap under the towel to clean itself off a little. In a minute I let go, pulled away the towel, and watched a young starling flap frantically away, leaving a half dozen sooty feathers in my hand.

Watering tools. Time to sort through all the connectors for my flexogen irrigation system. I've got the time, home in April, long cool days. All these accouterments make moving water so much easier.

Watering tools. Time to sort through all the connectors for my flexogen irrigation system. I’ve got the time, home in April, long cool days. All these accouterments make moving water so much easier.

Taking stock of hoses, measuring, assessing. Three hoses out of play this season with both ends bad on each; I'll snip off the ends of these, mail them to Gilmour, and get three free replacements. About the best garden deal I know of.

Taking stock of hoses, measuring, assessing. Three hoses out of play this season with both ends bad on each; I’ll snip off the ends of these, mail them to Gilmour, and get three free replacements. The best garden deal I know of.

It’s been so dry and windy, despite occasional spring snow showers, that it’s time to start watering all around the yard, trees and beds. Time to sort the hoses and lay them out around the garden, make sure all connections are secure and won’t waste water with leaks.

Still no bees in the red tulips, but a passel of blooms.

Still no bees in the red tulips, but a passel of blooms.

Almond blossoms opening against the warm stucco of the house.

Almond blossoms opening against the warm stucco of the house.

The new bee tree is the apricot.

The new bee tree is the apricot.

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A bee fly if I'm not mistaken.

A bee fly if I’m not mistaken.

In quest of the elusive white butterfly, moving too fast for me to get close, flittering through the nepeta.

In quest of the elusive white butterfly, moving too fast for me to get close, flittering through the nepeta.

A tiny wild bee plastered in pollen in the mini yellow tulips.

A tiny wild bee plastered in pollen in the mini yellow tulips.

I love the way the honeybees dive in face first, deep into the corolla.

I love the way the honeybees dive in face first, deep into the corolla.

Keeping up with my goal of photographing bees on each new variety of flower as it blooms. This girl made my day.

Keeping up with my goal of photographing bees on each new variety of flower as it blooms. This girl made my day.

So I spent a pleasant morning, grateful for the one that got away, chasing bees and butterflies through the spring garden, then drove to Eckert to the frame shop to drop off a new print for a show next month in Salida, and to pick up a couple of framed giant bees for the Grand Opening tomorrow night of the Church of Art in downtown Hotchkiss. Slowly gearing up the first rise of summer’s roller coaster.